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Social Capital and Social-Ecological Resilience in the Asteroussia Mountains, Southern Crete, Greece

Thanasis Kizos, Department of Geography, University of the Aegean
Vassilis Detsis, Department of Home Economics & Ecology, Harokopio University
Theodoros Iosifides, Department of Geography, University of the Aegean
Minas Metaxakis, Department of Geography, University of the Aegean


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Social-ecological resilience (SER) expresses the capacity of a social-ecological system to adapt and transform. We investigated the ways in which different types and transformations of social capital influence the SER of a region. The study area, the Asteroussia Mountains in southern Crete, Greece, is a typical semiarid hilly/mountainous area of the eastern Mediterranean in which land degradation is one of the most important issues in land management, mostly related to overgrazing because of the growing size of the flocks of sheep and goats. The approach followed was qualitative, with in-depth interviews with a small number of key stakeholders in the area. The findings indicate many important changes in the area in terms of its production, economy, and society, i.e., from a “semiarid husbandry” period during the 1950s to the early 1980s, through a transition period lasting until the end of 1980s, to a new state, the “subsidized husbandry” period, abruptly terminated in 2008 by the ongoing economic crisis. These changes correspond to important changes in social capital and very low levels of wider social trust among stockbreeders, while trust toward other forms of collective action at the local/regional level is also limited. Agricultural subsidies in the 1980s and onward seemed to be an important “vehicle” for this change. Another important factor is related to external inputs and cash availability. The most serious negative impact of all these changes seems to be the abandonment of long-term care for the land. Primary producers ceased to associate their income with land quality, and this appears to be one important reason, among others, for the intensification of grazing densities and the abandonment of practices that considered vegetation and soil quality.

Key words

Crete; Greece; land degradation and desertification; social-ecological resilience; social-ecological system

Copyright © 2014 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087